By Hanan Parvez
Introduction to hypnosis: The basic idea of hypnosis
Thanks to the media, the word ‘hypnosis’ instantly conjures up the image of a strangely dressed, bearded man dangling his pocket watch in front of an innocent-faced person who is about to go to sleep.
There’s nothing magical about hypnosis. It is a scientifically established technique that is now being widely employed in hypnotherapy and psychotherapy.
Almost all information that we receive from the environment is first processed by the conscious mind before it reaches the subconscious mind. I say “almost all” because sometimes we respond unconsciously to external stimuli without being consciously aware of what’s going on.
For example, hitting the brakes and turning the steering wheel instantly when you see an obstruction on the road while driving, even if you were completely lost in the songs that you were listening to. In such scenarios, you might become fully conscious only after the whole action.
However, these are rare circumstances. In most cases, any new information that we receive is first processed by the conscious mind. The conscious mind, with its filtering, deletion or distortion, allows only that information (or a distorted version of information) to pass through which is believable and can be verified as the truth.
For instance, when I say to you, “You are a polar bear” you first process this information with your conscious mind. Your conscious mind orders your subconscious mind to scan its belief system (information database) so that it can verify the information that it has been presented with.
When I say to you that you are a polar bear, an image of a white polar bear will flash across your mind. Your mind will then compare this information with the beliefs that you have about yourself (e.g. “you are human being”).
Upon finding no similarity whatsoever between what I told you and what you already believe about yourself, your conscious mind will reject the statement, “You are a polar bear” and will not allow it to pass on to your subconscious where it could’ve turned into a belief.
You’d laugh at me, think I’m nuts and totally dismiss what I said because it is contrary to what you already believe to be true.
So this piece of information, “You are a polar bear” is rejected by your conscious mind, does not reach your subconscious and does not form a part of your belief system.
The basic idea of hypnosis is this- what if we could bypass someone’s conscious mind so that the information we give them is directly absorbed by their subconscious mind? This way we should be able to escape any filtering or scrutiny by the conscious mind of the person while receiving new ideas or information.
If we are successful in planting an idea into the subconscious mind of a person directly without letting their conscious mind scrutinize it, then the idea can turn into a belief and hence modify the person’s behavior. Our whole psychology revolves around our beliefs. If you are able to somehow change a person’s beliefs, you can easily change their behaviour.
So hypnosis is all about bypassing a person’s conscious filtering process and allowing your ideas and suggestions to be directly absorbed by their subconscious mind.
An excellent analogy to further clarify the idea of hypnosis is that of a dog guarding a house that you want to break into.
Let’s say you are a burglar who wants to break into a house that is guarded by a ferocious dog that barks crazily upon seeing any stranger. The house is the subconscious mind. You are a suggestion or an idea and the dog is the conscious mind.
As soon as you try to enter, the dog realizes that you are a stranger (new idea) and so barks its lungs out (scrutinizing and resisting) preventing you from entering the house (programming the subconscious mind with a new idea).
But you are clever and you desperately want to break in. So you come up with a brilliant strategy. You throw a bone at the dog so that it gets busy relishing the tasty bone. You have successfully distracted the dog. Now you can enter the house without facing any resistance whatsoever. When you are able to bypass the conscious filtering process, you face little or no resistance to the idea with which you want to program a person’s subconscious with. This is hypnosis.
The ‘trance state’ of mind and hypnosis
The goal of hypnosis is to program the mind of a person with a desired belief or a suggestion or a command. This is done by inducing a highly suggestible ‘trance state’ in the person in which he becomes
highly receptive to ‘suggestions’ and his conscious resistance is greatly weakened, if not entirely turned off.
Trance state can be achieved by distraction and relaxation of the conscious mind. If the conscious mind of a person is distracted by some thought or any other activity requiring conscious involvement, the suggestions that he receives directly reach his subconscious mind.
Also, if you are able to induce a deep relaxation state in a person, their conscious resistance to any outside ideas or suggestions is greatly reduced; thereby allowing you directly access their subconscious mind.
So what does this trance state look like?
Any mental state of distraction or deep relaxation is a trance state. Distraction is more powerful and time-efficient than relaxation in inducing a trance state.
We all know how deep relaxation is used to induce a trance state by therapists, psychologists, etc. You are asked to sit in a chair or lie down comfortably, and then the hypnotist slowly allows you to relax. As the hypnotist allows you to relax more and more, the closer you get to reaching the trance state.
Finally, you reach a mental state similar to the ‘half-awake half-asleep’ state you usually find yourself in when you wake up in the mornings. This is the trance state. At this point your conscious mind is highly relaxed and almost turned off. So you become receptive to the suggestions or commands that the hypnotist gives you.
Now let’s talk about how distraction can induce a trance state…
All absent-mindedness is a state of trance. Ever done something stupid while being absent-minded? That’s the simplest example of hypnosis. To clarify the idea, let me give you an example…
You are in an elevator with a few people. You stare at the numbers and get lost in your own thoughts. This absent-mindedness is a state of trance. When people get off the elevator, you also receive a non-verbal suggestion to get off. You almost walk out of the elevator before you ‘wake up’ and realize that this is not your floor. See how you almost acted on a suggestion while being in the state of trance?
Another real life example
There are countless everyday examples of hypnosis that you can think of which revolve around absent-mindedness. It’s amazing how the subconscious mind takes the suggestions ‘literally’ and acts on them while our conscious mind is too distracted to make sense of what’s happening.
For example, I was once observing a guy who was fixing his electric motor. Though he was fixing the motor, it was apparent to me that he was distracted. In other words, his conscious mind was busy with something else.
As he was doing the task, he whispered to himself under his breath a light warning, “Don’t join the red wire with the black one”. A red wire had to be joined with another red one and a black wire had to be joined to another black one.
In his distracted state of mind, the guy did exactly what he had told himself not to do. He joined a red wire with a black one. As soon as he noticed what he had done, he was amazed and wondered how someone could do such a stupid thing. “I did exactly what I told myself not to do”, he exclaimed. I smiled and said, “It happens” because I figured the real explanation would’ve made him give me that incredulous dude-what-the-hell-are-you-saying look.
What actually happened is that the person underwent a brief hypnosis session just like we all sometimes do when we are distracted. While his conscious mind was busy with whatever he was thinking- the latest score, last night’s dinner, the quarrel with his wife- whatever, his subconscious mind became accessible to suggestions. At the same time, he gave himself the command, “Don’t join the red wire with the black one”.
The subconscious mind, which was currently in action because the conscious mind was distracted, did not process the negative word “don’t” because to ‘choose’ not to do something requires the involvement of the conscious mind. So for the subconscious, the actual command was, “Join the red wire with the black one” and that’s exactly what the guy did!
Conversational or Covert hypnosis techniques 
A hypnosis session that is carried out by a hypnotist with due consent from the subject to be hypnotized is called traditional hypnosis. There is another kind of sneaky hypnosis technique in which a person is
hypnotized without his knowledge. This type of hypnosis is called Conversational or Covert hypnosis and, as the name suggests, it is usually carried out in a conversation.
The idea that someone can control our mind using their speech freaks out many people but they forget that we’ve all been covertly hypnotized in one way or the other. Our entire childhood was essentially a period of hypnosis during which acquired the beliefs of those around us. So as long you keep your exercising your conscious thinking power, you’ll be good.
Conversational/Covert hypnotic techniques
You may be wondering how someone can hypnotize you by using mere words. As you will find out, the underlying principle of all the covert hypnotic techniques is the same as that in traditional hypnosis i.e. evading the conscious filtering and letting the information reach the subconscious mind directly.
Following are the most commonly used conversational hypnotic techniques…
Using keywords that disengage the conscious mind
There are certain keywords and phrases that directly act as subconscious commands and force us to put aside our critical thinking faculties. Examples include words like “imagine” and “relax” because these kinds of words are actually commands that our subconscious immediately acts upon, before we can consciously decide not to.
Visual images are the strongest forms of suggestions and that’s the reason why visualization is so effective. When I ask you to imagine something, I’m actually programming your mind with whatever it is that I’d like you to imagine. If you’re still trying to figure how a simple word like that can program your mind, consider this hypothetical scenario…
You are very reluctant to sign a business deal that can allow your business to expand internationally. You have your reasons. A business partner wants to persuade you to sign the deal because he thinks it’s worth it. After trying hard but failing to persuade you, he finally tells you,
“Imagine what it would be like if our business expands internationally. We will set up international offices. Other international companies will become interested in us. Our fame and reputation will touch the skies and our market value will grow exponentially. We’ll earn much larger profits than we are earning now and we’ll live a 5 times better life than the one we are living right now…”
If you are like most people and this business partner of yours managed to paint a vivid picture of your future success in your head, you will most likely succumb to the temptation and you will forget or give no weight or dismiss the reasons that initially compelled you not to sign the deal. This because your subconscious mind is much more powerful than your conscious mind.
Ambiguity and vagueness
Using ambiguous speeches is a common way many power-hungry leaders, dictators and other political leaders hypnotize the masses. Many so-called great political leaders are nothing more than skilled orators. Next time there’s an election campaign in your area, I want you to pay attention to the kind of words that different leaders use to garner vote and support.
You will realize that most of the time, the speeches of political leaders are devoid of any logic, full of ambiguity and vague slogans that serve no other purpose than to whet the emotions of the crowd. A logical leader who uses clear, unambiguous speech and does not stir up emotions of the people will never win any election anywhere. Take my word for it.
The important question is; how does vague and ambiguous language hypnotize the people?
If I tell you simple, logical and meaningful sentences, your conscious mind finds no problems in working out the meaning of what I say. For example,
Vote for me because I’ve planned many great economic and social policies that will surely improve the economic and social conditions of our country. These policies include………
On the other hand, if I use vague words and work on instigating your emotions, it has a tremendous effect. While your conscious mind is busy figuring out the logical meaning of my sentence (which doesn’t exist since vague words have no clear meaning), I bombard you with suggestions to vote for me. For example,
People of Deceitville! I ask you to RISE UP to the challenge! I ask you to wake up and embrace CHANGE! Together we CAN. This time we choose unity! This time we choose progress! This time we choose Hanan’s Democratic Party!
What challenge am I asking you to rise up to? What change am I asking you to embrace?
While your conscious mind gets busy finding answers to these unanswerable questions, I throw in the ‘suggestion’ to vote for me which directly reaches your subconscious mind. My odds of winning the election from Deceitville will dramatically increase 😉
Conversational or Covert hypnosis techniques 
Using conjunctions is a popular traditional as well as a covert hypnosis technique. What you do in this technique is that you first state a few absolute truths that your audience or subject can immediately verify.
After providing a series of correct information, you give the suggestion with which you hope to program the mind of your audience or the subject, linking it with the rest of the information via a conjunction such as ‘because’.
Think of your subconscious mind as a club and the security guard guarding the club as your conscious mind. The job of the security guard is to make sure that no one enters the club who has the potential of causing any kind of danger to the people inside. Similarly, the job of your conscious mind is to keep out any information with which you may not agree.
Initially, the guard is alert and frisks carefully each person who enters the club. In any conversation, we are most conscious in the initial stages when we tend to carefully scrutinize what the other person is saying, especially if he is a stranger. When the guard checks many people and doesn’t find anything questionable about any of them, he becomes less careful, tired and lazy ergo making his checking less intense. As we proceed in a conversation and build trust, we lower our guard and don’t deem it necessary to scrutinize and analyse every word the other person utters.
At this stage a criminal is likely to carry a gun into the club without being noticed, thanks to the weariness and nonchalance of the security guard. When you have built trust on a conscious or an unconscious level with a speaker, he gains the power to program your mind with any suggestion that he wants.
Take a look at this typical speech given by a political leader during an election campaign. Imagine yourself as a member of the audience…
Ladies and Gentleman! As I stand here before you tonight on this beautiful and charming occasion, I’m pretty sure that you all have gathered here with much enthusiasm and excitement. I feel the same excitement as I am speaking to you right now. You have all gathered here on this wonderful occasion because you believe in our party and our mission.
“Ladies and Gentlemen!” You don’t even need to look around to know that there are ladies and gentlemen in the room. This statement, though used to gain attention, is is registered as a truth by your mind.
“As I stand here before you tonight…” Of course he’s standing before you tonight, another truth, and the occasion is most probably a beautiful and charming one too, yet another truth.
“You have all gathered here…” No doubt you all have gathered here tonight and are full of excitement. What a foolish thing to say. People who have gathered to hear someone speak are naturally excited. But the purpose here is to state an obvious truth so that you begin to trust the speaker.
After building trust, he throws in his suggestion, “You believe in our party and our mission”
Notice how the speaker uses the conjunction ‘because’ to link two absolutely unrelated statements. You all gathering here on this wonderful occasion has got nothing to do with you believing in the speaker’s party or mission. You’ve all come here just to know what the party’s mission is and then to decide for yourself whether you should believe it or not. But because you have built trust with the speaker you are very likely to accept his suggestion that was preceded by a string of absolute truths.
Here’s what the conjunction ‘because’ does…
When you hear the statement, “You believe in our party and our mission”, your mind scans for a reason to believe this statement. At this stage, you’ve already been hypnotized, so instead of looking for a logical reason to believe this statement, you automatically and subconsciously accept the illogical reason that the speaker provides i.e. “You have all gathered here on this wonderful occasion”.
Before you know it, you are entranced and mesmerized by the speaker and strongly believe in their mission, even if you don’t know yet what it actually is!
Presuppositions are interesting because normally in hypnosis we first distract the conscious mind of a person and then give our suggestion, but in presupposition opposite happens. First we give the suggestion and then we distract the conscious mind of the person to evade its scrutiny.
Let’s say I’m a salesman of an insurance company trying to sell you a policy and my goal is to program your mind with the suggestion, “Our policies are unique and reliable” which you obviously don’t believe yet.
If I simply blurt out, “Our policies are unique and reliable” you are not going to believe it and your mind will be like. “Oh really? Why should I believe that? Give me proof”. This conscious scrutiny is what we try to eliminate in presuppositions so that you accept the suggestion without any questioning.
So instead I say to you, “Not only are our policies unique and reliable but they also provide you with long-term security and benefits” or something like, “Besides our policies being unique and reliable, we also provide you with all kinds of customer support and help 24/7”
By presupposing my suggestion as an unquestionable truth, I distract your conscious mind by providing you with a different information to think about, so that my suggestion is not scrutinized. At this point you are very unlikely to question my claim that “our policies are unique and reliable”. Instead you might ask something like, “What kind of long-term security and benefits will I get?” or “What kinds of customer support do you provide?”
Conversational or Covert hypnosis techniques 
Analogue marking sure sounds technical but it’s something we all do naturally in conversations. The purpose of this post is to unveil the underlying mechanism of how it is done so that you may do it consciously to get
better results. After reading this post, several examples of analogue marking will pop into your mind and you’ll know why they are so effective.
Analogue marking means highlighting specific keywords and phrases during a conversation that you directly want to communicate to a person’s unconscious mind.
Our unconscious mind is designed (‘evolved’ would be a better word) in such a way that it always pays attention to changes in the environment. When you are sitting in a room and someone enters through the door, you’ll automatically move your head toward the door to see who it is. This might seem like a conscious response but it isn’t. It is unconscious and automatic, it happens without the involvement of your will.
This behavioral response is a part of our genetic heritage as it was very helpful thousands of years ago when humans had to protect themselves from predators. At that time, the degree of awareness of the changes in the environment could’ve meant the difference between life and death.
In short, any change in the environment is immediately noticed by the subconscious mind and this fact is what we exploit in analogue marking. By inducing some sort of a change in the environment when we are sending our message during the conversation, we increase the odds of communicating directly with the subconscious mind of our subject.
Step-wise procedure for analogue marking
1) First of all you need to build trust and establish rapport with the person you are conversing with. This can done by stating a few true facts, smiling, appearing friendly or using the NLP technique called mirroring.
2) Decide beforehand what message you want to communicate to the person’s unconscious mind. Let’s say it is “Allow yourself to feel comfortable”, because making sure a person feels comfortable around you can be very advantageous.
3) Think of a context you can talk about where that message you want to send would not be out of place, for example talking about a visit to the beach.
4) Then talk about the context using a sentence that can accommodate the embedded message. For example,
I like visiting the beach where you can just relax and allow yourself to feel comfortable, constantly gaze the waves of the sea and the limitless horizon.
5) When you get to the embedded message “allow yourself to feel comfortable”, do something to mark it out for the person’s unconscious mind to notice. You can do that by lowering the tone of your voice, slowing down your voice, touching their arm, raising your eyebrows, tilting your head, etc.
Using the descending pitch of voice is found out to be very effective in analogue marking.
Why descending pitch works
Pitch of the voice is a measure of its shrillness. The more shrill the voice, the more high-pitched it is said to be. To understand it simply, think of it this way- men generally have low-pitched voices and women generally have high-pitched voices.
The pitch and tone of your voice determines at a deep unconscious level what kind of a sentence it is that you are saying. I want you to do this exercise with me. I want you to say out loud, “What have you done” in three different ways as under:
First, say it with a rising pitch where your voice is dull and low in the beginning and then becomes loud and sharp at the end. You will notice that the rising pitch gets processed as a question by our mind. You are asking the other person what he has done purely out of curiosity.
Next, say the sentence with a level pitch where your voice has the same medium pitch at the end of the sentence as in the beginning. A level pitched voice gets processed as a statement by the mind. You probably know what the other person has done and are expressing your disappointment.
Finally, say it with a descending pitch where your voice is sharp and loud at the beginning and becomes low and slow towards the end. A descending pitched voice gets processed as a command by our mind. You are probably angry at what the other person has done and are demanding an explanation.
As you have seen, the descending pitch opens up the command module in someone’s mind. People are more likely to do what you ask them to do when you talk in a descending pitch because their mind processes it as a command.
Conversational hypnosis in action: Analysis of Derren Brown’s ‘Paying with paper’
In this post, we’ll analyse a series of acts called “Paying with paper” carried out by the rock star of hypnosis himself, Derren Brown. Now I’ve watched many of these ‘mentalist’ videos and I’m convinced that many of
them are nothing more than trickery and deception.
Some acts however, such as the one we’ll analyse in this post, seem to be authentic because they are backed by well-established scientific techniques. “Paying with paper” by Derren Brown seems like an authentic act to me because the setting in which the act is performed is very realistic and more importantly, the act is supported by established scientific techniques of conversational hypnosis.
Many people doubt the authenticity of this act and so dismiss it without trying to understand how it might actually work. You don’t have to always agree or disagree with things. Whether this act is real or rigged shouldn’t be your concern because what I’m trying to do here is present you with a theory that attempts to explains how this shocking act could possibly have been carried out.
Analysis of “Paying with paper” by Derren Brown
Here’s the video I’m talking about…
I suggest that you first watch the whole video to know what it’s all about and then as I go about analysing it you may need to return to it again and again.
This video is a series of three acts in which Derren Brown buys stuff from three different salesmen and tries to pay them with plain paper.
In this act, notice how Derren approaches the salesman in a very polite and friendly manner, smiling and using phrases like “Thank You”. This is important because Derren was to establish a rapport with the salesman and does not want to rouse any suspicion. He wants the sale to look as normal as any other sale. He even compliments the salesman saying, “It is a fantastic place”. Who would ever doubt such a nice and friendly customer?
Now here comes the real stuff. As soon as Derren asks him, “How much is that?” he starts a whole another story about ‘being intimated by the subway system’. This is purposefully done to distract the conscious mind of the salesman so that his subconscious becomes receptive to suggestions or commands.
I was a bit intimidated by the subway system. I didn’t want to go in it then someone said, you know, it’s okay, take it- take it it’s fine. So I did. It’s amazing.
When Derren speaks these words, he’s fiddling with his wallet just like any normal customer would when they are about to pay. When the ‘subway system’ is mentioned the salesman’s mind wanders off and pictures the ‘subway system’. The time’s ripe to throw in a suggestion.
When Derren gives him the money, he says, “Take it, it’s fine”. Though it seemed like it was a part of the story that Derren was narrating, but actually it was a ‘suggestion’ directed to the salesman’s subconscious so that he could act on it while his conscious mind was sufficiently distracted!
Amazingly enough, the salesman takes the money without bothering to check it (take it, it’s fine) and even hands over the change to Derren Brown! Notice how Derren still manages to keep him distracted by asking him where he lives. Then he shakes his hand and says, “Thank you very much” and leaves. This gives the salesman a false impression that the sale was an authentic one.
Derren asks a roadside vendor for a hot dog. As soon as the vendor gives him the hot dog, Derren starts to distract his mind…
Do you know where I can find the nearest drug store…
The vendor pictures the drug store and its location in his mind and then tells Derren about it. But Derren has to keep him distracted so that he can add his suggestion…
Yea I got terrible headache…..what’s good for you to take, so you can just take that and feel okay.
Alas! The vendor wasn’t as distracted as Derren thought he was. He immediately notices the blank paper and asks Derren, “What’s that?” Derren knows he’s been caught but he still tries to distract the vendor by saying, “You know my dad’s 65. Yea, you can keep the change.”
But it’s too late. The vendor is fully conscious and knows the money’s not real.
Derren orders a platinum ring worth $4500 and asks the salesman to box it up, saying “I will give you cash for that”. As the salesman is packing the ring, Derren starts to distract his mind…
Is there a subway here?” ……Is that North or South that way?
Then he opens his wallet, keeping the salesman distracted …
So straight down there in the corner?
Salesman replies in the affirmative. Derren was forcing the salesman to remain distracted so that he could give him a subconscious suggestion to take the fake money.
Yea I was bit intimidated about using the subways here but my friend just said, “Take it, its fine, its fine”. I was a bit intimidated about that but it’s great.
Again, notice the timing when Derren hands over the money to the salesman and how he uses his suggestion “Take it, its fine, its fine” to program the subconscious mind of the salesman to take the fake money.
The salesman not only takes the fake money but even wraps it in a rubber band! There was a big chance here that he could’ve become conscious and noticed that it was just plain paper. But Derren ensures that his conscious mind still remains distracted…
So straight down there? That way down on this corner… Thank you very much indeed! Goodbye!
What was particularly strange about this act was that the salesman never realized that he’d been given fake money until that girl in his shop (probably a cashier) told him about it!
The Placebo effect: Is it all really in the mind?
The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.
– Nikola Tesla
You go to a doctor with a severe headache and fever. After examining you for a while, he gives you some shiny pills and asks you to take them every day after meals. He says confidently that in a week or so you’d be absolutely fine and tells you to inform him when you return to the pink of your health.
After a week, your illness is gone and you’re perfectly healthy. You call the doctor and tell him that you’d taken the pills as prescribed. “The pills worked!”, you exclaim in excitement.
“Alright, hold your horses! They were just sugar pills”, says the doc, turning your excitement into an incredulous shock.
This strange phenomenon is known as the placebo effect.
Your mind affects your body
Placebo effect is a widely accepted phenomenon in the field of medicine. Studies after studies have confirmed that it works. We don’t know how it works yet but at least we can accept that the human mind has incredible healing powers.
Some people doubt if the mind has got anything to do with controlling the body and say that it’s just the brain that’s playing the game. They maintain that the brain sends signals to various parts of the body which then respond accordingly. They ignore the role of the mind in all this and doubt whether there is such a thing as the mind.
Some say that the mind is an emergent property of the brain and not an entity of some kind- not a ‘ghost in the machine’.
To be frank, I don’t really care about the physical nature of the mind just as I don’t care about the physical structure of my computer but how it works. Whether the mind is an emergent property of the brain, a ghost-like entity that controls the brain and the body or just an illusory process is not what I’m concerned about. I’m only concerned about how it works.
What I’ve learnt so far about the workings of the mind convinces me that it is sometimes capable of incredible miracles. Now, I’m not the type of person who’d dismiss miracles just because they sound spooky. That’s arrogance. No, if someone comes to me and claims that he has psychic abilities, I’d sit down with him and ask him how he does what he does.
I’ll look for the science behind his claimed abilities because everything happens according to some set rules. That’s how nature works. Miracles are nothing but those phenomena whose science we don’t yet understand and I believe instead of dismissing them out-rightly we need to look at them more carefully so that we may arrive at a better understanding of our mind.
Some amazing examples of the Placebo effect
When I first heard about the Placebo effect, I thought, “Okay, the mind can alleviate fever, headaches or pain. But it can’t replace surgery, can it? Otherwise, what’s the purpose of the entire medical and healthcare system?”
But I was wrong. Soon I read about a study which showed that the Placebo effect is effective even in surgeries!
In 1993, J.B. Moseley, an orthopedic surgeon, had doubts regarding the arthroscopic surgery that he performed to fix knee pain. It is a procedure guided by a tiny camera that sees inside the knee and the surgeon removes or smooths out the cartilage.
He decided to carry out a study and divided his patients into three groups. One group got the standard treatment: anesthetic, three incisions, scopes inserted, cartilage removed, and 10 liters of saline washed through the knee.
The second group got anesthesia, three incisions, scopes inserted, and 10 liters of saline, but no cartilage was removed. The treatment of the third group looked from the outside like the other two treatments (anesthesia, incisions, etc.) and the procedure took the same amount of time; but no instruments were inserted into the knee. This was the placebo group.
It was found that the placebo group, as well as the other groups, recovered from knee pain equally! There were patients in the placebo group who needed canes before they were subjected to the sham surgery. But after the surgery they no longer needed the canes and one grandfather even started playing basketball with his grand kids!
Rewind back to 1952 and we have the most bizarre case of Placebo effect ever documented…
The doctor’s name was Albert Mason and worked as an anesthetist at the Queen Victoria hospital in Great Britain. One day, while he was about to give an anesthetic, a boy of 15 was wheeled into the theater. The boy had millions of warts (tiny black spots that make your skin look elephant-like) on his arms and legs.
The plastic surgeon for whom Albert Mason worked, was trying to graft skin from the boy’s chest which didn’t have these warts onto his hands. This actually made the boy’s hands worse and the surgeon was kind of disgusted with himself. So Mason said to the surgeon, “Why don’t you treat him with hypnotism?”
At that time it was well-known that hypnotism could make the warts vanish and Mason himself had successfully removed them several times using hypnotism. The surgeon looked at Mason pityingly and said, “Why don’t you?”
Mason immediately took the boy out of the theater and performed hypnosis on the boy, giving him the suggestion, ‘The warts will fall off your right arm and new skin will grow which will be soft and normal’. He sent him away and told him to come back in a week.
When the boy returned it was clear that the hypnosis session had worked. In fact, the change was startling. Mason rushed to the surgeon to show him the results. The surgeon was busy operating on a patient and so Mason stood outside and lifted both the arms of the boy to show the difference. The surgeon peeked at the arms through the glass door, handed his knife to his assistant and rushed outside.
He examined the arm carefully and exclaimed, “Good God!” Mason said, “I told you warts go” to which the surgeon retorted, “Warts! This isn’t warts. This is congenital Ichthyosiform Erythrodermia of Brocq. He was born with it. It’s incurable”!
When Mason published this incredible healing event in a medical journal, it created waves. Many patients with this congenital skin condition flocked to Dr Mason hoping to get cured. None of them responded at all. Albert Mason was never again able to repeat that first incredible success and he knew why. Here’s how he explains it in his own words…
“I now knew it was incurable. Beforehand, I thought it was warts. I had a conviction that I can cure warts. After that first case I was acting. I knew it had no right to get well.”
NLP techniques: Anchoring
NLP is the abbreviation for Neuro-Linguistic Programming:
Neuro- the human nervous system
Linguistic- verbal and non-verbal language used for communication
Programming- structuring a system to attain the desired results
NLP is a school of psychological techniques that effectively communicate with a person’s subconscious mind. The end result being that you can communicate/negotiate/persuade people much more effectively.
Without further ado, let’s jump right on to these techniques…
When two separate events happen simultaneously enough number of times such that occurring of one event reminds you of the other, the events are said to be anchored in your mind. Classical conditioning of Pavlov’s dogs is the simplest and the most famous example of anchoring.
Ivan Pavlov successfully demonstrated the anchoring of ‘ringing a bell’ and ‘salivation’ in his dogs. When he brought food to the dogs, he rang a bell simultaneously. He repeated this until the dogs learnt that ringing the bell means they are about to eat and so started salivating,
A point came when Pavlov only rang a bell but brought no food but still the dogs salivated. The ‘ringing of the bell’ and ‘salivation’ had been anchored such that the occurrence of one event (ringing) triggered the occurrence of another (salivation).
Forget dogs, in our day-to-day lives we experience anchoring whenever we hear a song that reminds us of a good memory, visit a place that reminds us of our past experiences in that place or feel attracted to a person who looks like our previous crush.
Mechanics of anchoring
Memories are not stored discretely in our minds. A single memory can overlap with many other memories and the points of this overlapping are anchors. The extent of this anchoring will depend on how strong the anchor is or in other words, on the extent of overlapping.
Right now you may be sitting at home looking at your computer screen. The information that you are exposed to in your room is minimal. Hardly anything in the room is anchored to any of your memories, unless you are a crazy Twilight fan with posters of Edward on every wall.
As soon as you step out of the room and your house, you may encounter dozens of cues that will force your mind to follow certain trains of thought or activities just because they were anchored due their past simultaneous repetition.
First, you encounter a car playing loud music. You hear carefully and recognize the song. It is a song that elicits a good past memory and so for a while you get lost in those thoughts. The song is anchored to your good past memory.
Next you notice a girl at the bus station who has the same hair as your previous girlfriend. You think it’s your ex but on a closer look you realize that it’s a different person. Suddenly, you start to remember everything about your ex- how you met, how good the times were and how a silly fight ended it all.
As Pavlov’s dogs showed, anchoring works not only in recalling past memories but also past activities that were linked to the current event. In fact, all our habits follow the same basic anchoring mechanism.
Creating and breaking anchors
Here comes the fun part. Now that you know how it all works, it’s time to fiddle with it. You can create and remove anchors at will because now you are consciously aware of the process that has long been occurring behind the veils.
To create an anchor all you need to do is repeat two activities simultaneously enough number of times. Try listening to a particular song every time you feel happy. Over time, listening to the song and your happy feelings will become anchored. Anytime you’re feeling down or out of sorts, you may play the song and feel happy again!
The more you repeat events simultaneously, the more the anchoring will be strengthened. However, if one event kept on happening without the other, the anchor gets weakened till it finally breaks. This knowledge can be used to overcome bad habits and cure phobias.
Let’s say you noticed that you smoke whenever you see another person smoking, whether on TV or in real life. The event of ‘watching someone else smoke’ is anchored to the activity of ‘you smoking’.
To break this association resist the temptation to smoke when you see someone else smoking. When you do this enough number of times, a time will come when the anchor will be broken and you won’t feel the temptation to smoke again upon seeing someone else smoke. It’s that simple.
If you’re afraid of closed spaces (claustrophobia), then this maybe because of a traumatic past event/s that you experienced in enclosed spaces. So your mind anchored an enclosed place with fear. To break this association go to an enclosed place that scares you whenever you get a chance. Even if you’re afraid at first, stay there for a while. Repeat this as many times as you can.
Slowly but surely, your mind will learn that the enclosed spaces aren’t that dangerous (since nothing will happen to you) till the association between fear and enclosed spaces is completely broken.
NLP techniques: Mirroring
Mirroring or rapport establishment is one of the coolest NLP techniques out there. It gives you a fair glimpse of how our unconscious minds work below our level of awareness and how we make decisions and
judgments about somebody without knowing why.
Mirroring, as the name suggests, means copying another person. Copying another person’s gestures, tone of voice or even catchphrases constitute mirroring. Mirroring has numerous benefits provided you carry it out properly.
The basic idea of mirroring
Do you know why we feel hatred, fear and disgust towards spiders or centipedes but feel okay around chimpanzees or other mammals? It’s because mammals look much more similar to us than insects. We are hard-wired to like and feel comfortable around other humans. This has an evolutionary advantage because the closer we live with other human beings, the higher are our chances of survival.
So the more an organism looks different from humans, the more we feel uncomfortable around it. In short, our unconscious mind has learnt to make us feel comfortable only around those who resemble us or share some sort of a similarity with us. This is why you like it when you meet a person belonging to your culture or religion in a foreign country or why you always choose to sit with the people you know when you enter a room full of strangers. This fact is what we exploit in the NLP technique of mirroring.
How mirroring is done
In mirroring, we try to convince the subconscious mind of the other person that we are similar to them. If it works, the person feels comfortable around us and may even start to like us without knowing why.
Next time you are engaged in a comfortable conversation with someone you are close to, I want you to notice the body language of both of you. You will notice that you have taken up similar gestures or gestures that are mirror images of each other. Your hands may be at the same position or your legs might be crossed in exactly the same way.
All this happens unconsciously as we get comfortable around someone. But in mirroring, we do the process consciously with the goal of making the person feel comfortable, even if they didn’t feel that way initially, because we are manipulative jerks! Now don’t hyperventilate because if you weren’t you wouldn’t be reading this post with so much excitement. It’s time you accept the dark sides of your psyche, ha ha
Anyway, while you are trying to mirror someone during a conversation, you can’t just abruptly copy their gestures lest they will become suspicious. You are communicating with their unconscious mind so you have to make it slow and unnoticeable.
Slowly, copy their gestures one by one until your gestures look 100% similar to theirs. If they change a gesture, you also follow along, but with some time delay so as to make it unnoticeable. If you want to make sure that your mirroring was successful and the other person is feeling comfortable, you can always test it by assuming a new gesture. If the person unconsciously copies you, then your mirroring attempt has been successful.
Like I mentioned before, in addition to copying gestures you can also convince the unconscious mind of the person of your similarity by using the same tone of voice or by talking about common interests. Even repeating the words that the person says can lead to successful mirroring. For instance, if they say “yes” you say “yes”, they say “no” you say “no”, they say “the food is great” you say “the food is great”.
I know this sounds stupid but it will work like magic if you don’t overdo it, making the other person think that you’re some kind of a circus monkey! The key is to do it very moderately and occasionally. While we are at it, do you remember how you smiled when someone first showed you that “Talking Tom” Android app in which this cat repeats the exact words that you say to it? The app became very famous (it has over 23 million Facebook fans) and there are many other versions of it available now- ‘Talking this’ and ‘Talking that’. All this is nothing but the magic of mirroring.
Be creative in your use of mirroring
Imagine all the benefits that you can gain by making someone feel comfortable around you. If you are a salesperson, then the chances of making a sale can dramatically increase if the customer feels comfortable around you. In a business setting, the success of your negotiation can depend to a great extent on how comfortable you can make the other person feel.
If you are a student, then I suggest you use the same catchphrases that your teacher uses when you write your exam papers. For instance, if your teacher uses the catchphrase “It follows that…” then the more you use it in your paper, the higher will be your chances of getting better grades if the same teacher corrects your papers.
This is because upon noticing similar catchphrases that he himself uses, the teacher will unconsciously assume that you’ve learned his lectures well and will therefore correct your paper more leniently and ‘comfortably’. And that, if you’ve ever been a student then you probably know, can sometimes be the difference between passing and failing.
Alright, I was kidding about that whole accepting-the-dark-side-of-your-psyche thing. You should use mirroring very carefully and only when needed. My advice is that you only use mirroring in a win-win situation where you know what you are doing is good for both of you or at least where the other person is not harmed in any way.
NLP Techniques: Re-framing
“Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so” – W. Shakespeare
I believe one of the very important concepts to understand about life is that everything that happens in nature is absolute. It’s neither good nor bad, unless we give it meaning, unless we put a frame around it.
The same situation can be good for one person and bad for another person, but stripped of all meaning and boiled down to itself, it is just a situation.
Take killing for instance. You might argue that killing someone is inherently bad regardless of what we think, but I can give you many examples where it can be considered a good or even a ‘brave’ act. A soldier killing enemies while defending his country, a cop shooting down a criminal etc. The family of the criminal will definitely see the shooting as bad, tragic and doleful but for the cop this killing was a good act in the service of society and he might even believe that he deserves a medal.
The personal frame of reference we put around life situations determines to a great extent our interpretations of these situations and hence our emotional states. Something happens, we observe it, based on what we know we give meaning to it and then we either feel good or bad about it. How good we feel about it entirely depends on whether or not we see any benefit in it. If we see a benefit, we feel good and if we don’t or if see a harm, we feel bad.
The concept of re-framing
Now that we know it is the frame and not the situation that results in our emotions, can we change our frame thereby causing a change in our emotions? Absolutely. This is the whole idea behind re-framing.
The goal of re-framing is to view a seemingly negative situation in such a way that it becomes positive. It involves changing your perception of an event so that you can focus on the opportunity that it provides you with, instead of the difficulty that it mires you in. This inevitably leads to a change in your emotions from negative to positive.
Examples of re-framing
If you’re facing tough work conditions then instead of cursing your job you can see it as an opportunity to enhance your skills and problem-solving abilities. You could also see it as an opportunity to develop resilience.
If you failed in a test then instead of calling yourself a failure you can see it as an opportunity to do better next time.
If you are stuck in a terrible traffic jam then instead of getting worked up you can view it as a great opportunity to listen to an audio-book that you’ve been wanting to hear for quite a while.
If you’ve lost touch with your old friends and feel bad about it, then maybe it’s life clearing up space for new people to enter into your life.
The whole ‘positive thinking’ phenomenon is nothing but re-framing. You teach yourself to see things in a positive way so that you can get rid of the unwanted emotions.
But there’s a downside to positive thinking too which can prove to be dangerous if not kept in check…
There’s a fine line between re-framing and self-deception
Re-framing is good as long as it is done within reason. But outside reason, it can (and often does) lead to self-deception. Many people are desperate to think ‘positively’ and so they create a fantasy world of positive thinking and escape to it whenever life gives them a hard time. But when reality hits, it hits hard.
The human mind cannot accept re-framing that is not backed by reason for long. Sooner or later it makes you realize that you’ve been deceiving yourself. At this point you can either get depressed or you can get motivated to take some action.
What happened to the fox?
We’ve all heard that story of the fox who famously declared that the ‘grapes are sour’. Yes, he did re-frame his predicament and he did restore his psychological stability. But we are never told what happened next. So I’ll tell you the rest of the story and I hope it will inspire you to use re-framing wisely…
After declaring that the grapes were sour, the fox headed back home and tried to rationally analyse what happened to him. He wondered why he tried so hard to reach the grapes in the first place if they were sour after all.
“The idea of the grapes being sour only came to me when I failed to reach the grapes”, he thought. “I gave myself a fake reason not to try harder because I didn’t want to look like a fool for not not being able to reach the grapes. Good God! I’ve been deceiving myself”. Next day he brought a ladder with him, reached the grapes and relished them- they weren’t sour!
What are NLP eye accessing cues and how to read them for best results
Have you ever wondered why our eyes move so much and are all over the place while we are engaged in a conversation? Is there some connection between the directions toward which our eyes move and what we
are talking about?
Well, some curious folks did wonder about it and observed a pattern. They concluded that we all have three basic representational systems in which we think- visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. For most people, the visual representational system is the strongest. They think in images.
For example, if I talk about going for a walk in the woods, you will picture the woods and all its details. You are thinking in images. Some people will recall the sounds associated with walking in the woods more powerfully- stream flowing, birds chirping, etc. For them, their auditory representational system of thinking is the strongest. They think in sounds.
Then there are those who will actually feel how it feels to walk in the woods more strongly than they will recall the images and the sounds. Such people have the kinaesthetic representational thinking system as the most dominant one.
So what are these NLP eye accessing cues?
External behaviors that indicate what kind of internal processing a person is doing are called accessing cues. It was observed that during a conversation the direction towards which our eyes move indicates what representational system we are thinking in. This is shown in the diagram below.
A useful mnemonic to remember this chart would be to look at the directions of these eye movements with respect to the observer. That way when you observe an eye movement toward your right you will know it’s something ‘remembered’ because ‘right’ and ‘remembered’ both begin with an ‘R’.
Examples where these eye movements may be observed
If I ask you, “Where do you live?” you will recall the visual images of the place you live in and your eyes will move toward the upper right direction. On the other hand, if I ask you “What sort of a place would you like to live in?” then I’m basically asking you to ‘construct’ the place using your imagination. So your eye will move to the upper left direction.
Similarly, the question, “What is your dad’s voice like?” will make your eyes drift to the middle right direction (sideways) because you are ‘remembering’ your dad’s voice. On the other hand, if I ask you “What did Joe tell you?” then your eyes will move to the middle left if you never met Joe and if you never talked to him, but wanted to lie to me.
When you need to make a very important decision, you will naturally be engaged in an inner dialogue which will make your eyes move to the lower right direction.
If I ask you, “How was the food at the new restaurant you visited today?” and you say, “Mmm It was delicious!” your eyes will move toward the lower left (kinaesthetic) because you are ‘feeling’ the taste of the food.
Precautions to be taken while observing eye accessing cues
NLP eye accessing cues can be surprisingly accurate but you need to keep a few things in mind to get the best results:
1) Some people have these directions of eye movements completely reversed, meaning that visual remembering becomes upper left instead of upper right and so on. This is usually the case with left-handed people (but not all of them). So it is a good idea to ask a test question first which you know the answer of to check whether or not the eye movements are reversed.
2) Sometimes a person answers your question keeping his eyes in the middle, without moving them in any direction. This happens when the answer is in the person’s readily accessible short-term memory and too obvious to be searched for e.g. answer to the question “What is your name?”
3) Use clean questions while looking for eye accessing cues. Clean questions are those questions that do not trigger any extra, unnecessary thought patterns that can interfere with your observations.
An example of a clean question would be, “What color is your car?” The answer to this question is a simple visual response. But if you ask, “Can you tell me what color is your car?” then it is not a clean question because the person will first engage in an inner dialogue with himself to answer the question, “Can I?” This will make his eyes move to lower right and you will be confused because you were expecting a visual response.
Some interesting applications of NLP eye accessing cues
NLP eye accessing cues are eye movements that people use while talking. These movements indicate what representational system a person is thinking in -visual, auditory or kinaesthetic or whether he’s engaged in a
It is important to realize that these eye movements don’t tell you ‘what’ a person is thinking but rather ‘how’ they are thinking. Knowing whether a person is thinking in images, sounds or feelings or if he’s engaged in an inner dialogue can be helpful in a lot of situations.
In this post, we look at some interesting uses and applications of NLP eye accessing cues…
Should I or shouldn’t I?
When you ask someone a question and they spend some time looking down towards your right before answering, it means they had some reservations about giving the answer to you. Eye movement down and to the right with respect to the observer indicates that the person was engaged in an inner dialogue before giving you the answer.
If the person had no reservations about giving you the answer, they wouldn’t have engaged in any kind of inner dialogue. There would’ve been no need of discussing the answer with themselves before giving it to you.
You will notice this eye movement when someone has to tell you something that they believe you are not ready to hear. For instance, a doctor telling you that you have 6 months to live or a subordinate telling you how he screwed up the assignment you gave him.
Speaking their language
NLP eye movements can help you establish rapport with a person very quickly during a conversation. Just notice where their eyes move to most of the time. If they do a lot of side to side movement then this indicates that their lead representational system of thinking is auditory.
In other words, the person thinks better in sounds. So if you use words that activate auditory responses in their brain, you’ll be able to communicate with them more effectively. For example, using phrases like “Does that sound good?” or “Listen to me” more often will let you hold the attention of this person better.
If a person thinks mostly in the visual representational system (upper right and upper left), then using words like “Imagine…” in your conversation will engage him more.
A person who looks down and to your left most of the time is concerned very much about the way he feels. Using phrases like, “How do you feel about this?” or “Think about how you’ll feel…” can make your communication with him much more effective.
A person who looks down and to your right when you are talking to them are either preoccupied with something else or they just need reassurance because they have some doubts about what you are saying.
In teaching, if you get to know in what representational system your student thinks, you can explain things to them in a better way.
Back and forth
If you asked a friend, “What kind of a car would you like to drive?” and his eyes move from upper left to upper right, back and forth, like a pendulum, it means he’s comparing two cars in his head- one that he has seen before or already owns and one that he is imagining.
Sometimes when you are listening to the music that you really like, you will notice that you move your eyes sideways because that is how you can listen best. You will find singers with a good voice doing a lot of sideways eye movements when they are singing.
The more ‘emotionally’ and passionately a singer sings, the more he’ll look down and if the song has lyrics involving a lot of visual imagery, you’ll consistently find him looking upwards. I know a woman who looks sideways in a peculiar way when she’s listening to someone intently. I had no idea what was going on until I came across NLP.
How TV influences your mind through hypnosis
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds” – Bob Marley
Think about it: Will I be exaggerating if I say that a part of your behavior and personality is shaped by the
things that you see on the screen? Definitely not! It is naive to think that television is a harmless pastime activity that doesn’t affect your psyche in any way.
Every thinking person knows that anything you expose your mind to affects it. Your psyche is continually being shaped by all kinds of information that you receive from your environment and that includes television.
Television is one the most effective hypnotic tools out there. It can have a huge influence on the way you think, the beliefs that you hold and consequently how your life turns out. Your subconscious mind, which carries all your memories and beliefs and makes you who you are, is directly programmed by watching television.
The flicker-induced hypnotic state
Your mind slips into the hypnotic trance state within seconds of watching TV. This lowers your brainwaves to a lower ‘alpha state’ commonly associated with meditation and deep relaxation. This is believed to be caused by the screen flicker and explains why you feel sleepy while watching TV.
Under this state of trance, your subconscious mind becomes highly suggestible and whatever information you receive from the TV becomes part of your memory pool. Since beliefs are nothing but memories, this information has the tendency to alter your beliefs or form new ones when it seeps into your subconscious mind. You might think the remote is in your hand and you’re watching the programs but in truth you are the one who is getting programmed.
Impaired conscious filtering
Freeing your mind is all about finding out what beliefs you are holding in your subconscious, bringing them to consciousness and then eliminating the ones that have no compelling evidence or any basis in reality.
Our conscious mind is a security guard that ensures only information that we already believe in is allowed into the subconscious mind so that our pre-existing beliefs get strengthened. It has the tendency to reject any information that does not match our pre-existing belief systems.
The natural consequence of a hypnotic trance state is that your conscious filters are turned off and you are unable to critically analyse the information that you are receiving. Moreover, when you watch TV you are not able to do any thinking because information is bombarded continuously into your mind. You get no time to process what you are watching. Your conscious mind is eliminated from the equation and the information that you receive continues to become part of your belief system.
Compare this to reading where you can stop, think and reflect after each line that you read. You, the reader, sets the pace while you are reading and not the book. TV, on the other hand, keeps on pouring information like wine into the glass of your unconscious mind and before you know it, you are already drunk! And that’s what you see all around you- people intoxicated with the thoughts of other people who never give sobriety a chance by reflecting on their drunkenness.
How TV influences us
How many times have you done something just because you saw someone doing it on TV? We are hard-wired to copy those around us. This was especially important during childhood when our survival depend much on how well we copied actions that others around us did such as eating for instance.
I’ve said before that our entire childhood was essentially a period of hypnosis. We picked up beliefs from all over the place because our conscious faculty was not fully developed. We did not have the ability to question our beliefs and actions.
We saw Superman flying, got a Superman dress and tried to take off from the balcony. We saw wrestling on TV and fought with pillows in the living room, tearing the poor cottony things apart. We saw our favorite gun-carrying heroes and were shooting imaginary aliens in your courtyard.
This is strong proof of the fact that our subconscious mind cannot differentiate between things that we see on the screen and reality. That’s why we believed all that we saw on TV when we were kids and tried to copy what we saw.
But some people just never grow out of it. Sure you can’t do anything to convince your subconscious mind that what you see on TV isn’t real just like you can’t be ‘not-scared’ while watching a really scary horror movie alone in the night. But what you can do is bring your conscious mind into the equation and only accept that information which agrees with your common sense and reason.
Millions of people are daily getting programmed by the stuff they watch on TV. They might not try to take off from the balcony but their life is a good reflection of what they see on the screen. Find out what TV programs a person watches and you can know a lot about what kind of a person he is. Millions of people are trying to live the fictional lives they see being portrayed in the films, many are identifying with their favorite celebrities and copying them and countless others are daily accepting the versions of reality their news channels present them with.
Choose what you see
TV isn’t necessarily bad if you are very conscious and deliberate about the things that you watch. Entertain and educate yourself, but don’t allow the programs to program you with irrational beliefs. Always try to keep your critical thinking faculty switched ‘ON’ so that you don’t let others control your thought processes.